A strong product and high-powered marketing strategy will take you far down the road of success. However, you will struggle to reach your destination if equally solid customer service isn’t a part of the plan. Customer service will influence whether customers are repeat buyers or decide to take their business elsewhere.
CRM giant Salesforce recently rolled out its second annual State of Service report. One of the most interesting statistics shows that 70 percent of consumers and 82 percent of B2B customers have one thing to thank technology for. It’s made it easier than ever to walk away from one company in favor of another.
The data was compiled by customer strategy consulting firm thinkJar. Poor customer service was the reason 66 percent of consumers chose to switch brands. Further research found that 85 percent of that turnover could have been prevented. Sixty-seven percent could have been prevented by resolving the issue at the first customer engagement. Another 11 percent by simply reaching out to the customer.
Treating customers to first-class service is one of those things that seems obvious, yet far too many companies seem to botch for whatever reason. Below are seven strategies that are not only ideal for improving customer service, but also for enhancing the customer relationship.
1. Embrace Customer Experience
If your company has yet to perfect the customer experience, now is a great time to do it. From discovery to transactions, customer experience comprises of all the interactions that take place over the course of the customer relationship. While the terms are often used interchangeably, customer experience and customer service are not one in the same. You can look at customer service as one of several vital elements that goes into shaping the overall customer experience.
The importance of CX is not lost on key decision makers in the enterprise:
- 62 percent of companies feel that CX is the main factor that differentiates competition (Deloitte).
- The Customer Experience Management (CEM) market may be worth over $13 billion by 2021 (Markets & Markets).
- Furthermore, Gartner predicts that 50 percent of enterprises will invest in customer experience technology by 2018.
2. Master Customer Communication
Communication is essential to the success of any relationship. Customer service is the literal mouthpiece of the organization. And they be must be thoroughly trained on how to use this potent weapon. You should avoid passive-aggressive attitudes, technical jargon, and other language that might lead to confusion. Use language and tone that customers are most likely to use themselves.
No need to make it complicated. A combination of casual, friendly, and personable will do in most cases.
3. Make Life Easy For Your Customers
Let’s face it … people are lazy. We often want little to do with things like researching, scrolling, and reading. We’re also pressed for time, so it would behoove competing businesses to aim to make our lives as easy as possible. A study by Harvard Business Review found that reducing the effort needed to solve problems is the best way to foster customer loyalty. Now that doesn’t necessarily mean you have to pamper your customers like toddlers. A support portal they can easily search to find their own answers and guidance could be all they need.
4. Intelligently Deploy Smart Technologies
Sometimes you don’t need to look any further than pop culture to pinpoint what’s hot in business trends. Organizations need to leverage those trends in a way that optimizes business processes while delivering the utmost convenience to the consumer. Artificial intelligence is a technology that can take the communication element of customer service to new heights. Chatbots, for example, offer a uniquely powerful way to automate manual tasks. They will help support agents create a more personalized customer experience.
Companies are increasingly deploying chatbots to bolster their messaging capabilities. This AI-driven innovation comes with a number of competitive advantages, including:
Cross-vertical value: Chatbots are great for e-commerce, but can be valuable in any industry. You can customize the most flexible platforms to specifically suit your business and its objectives.
Cross-channel support: From Facebook Messenger and Twitter to Skype and commercial enterprise channels, you can deploy chatbots virtually anywhere.
Continuous learning: Bots remember details about the people they interact with and learn over time.
Robust reporting: Chatbots represent another rich source of minable business data. You can use the feedback to craft more appropriate responses from both bots and human agents alike.
Multi-lingual support: The typical chatbot supports up to a dozen languages. That may not sound like a lot, but it’s actually pretty extensive in this application.
Some pundits believe that chatbots will eventually replace human agents in the call center. We don’t know if that will be the case, but support teams are increasingly deploying AI technology and reaping the benefits in the process. The aforementioned Salesforce report found that 77 percent of high-performing customer service teams effectively used AI to enhance the customer experience.
5. Align Customer Support With Other Departments
Your support team is your official brand ambassador; the bridge between your customers and the company they do business with. Be it positive or negative, the feedback this department receives from the consumer is critically important to crafting rewarding customer experiences. Make sure agents have the green light to share their ideas and concerns with upper management. Empower support by implementing a system that enables agents to easily pass along customer feedback product and marketing teams can use to fine-tune their respective strategies.
6. Reward Loyalty
They say that one good deed deserves another. If you buy into the old adage, you probably buy into the belief that it is only fitting to show appreciation to the customers who support you on a regular basis. One study revealed that loyalty rewards encouraged 46 percent of customers to spend more money with a brand. More than half said they would consider it.
A well thought out loyalty program pays huge dividends. In addition to directly boosting profits, it can help you find your most dedicated supporters. The repeat customers who are willing to step out and advocate on your behalf. On that note, the reported $16 billion a year in unused loyalty reward points shows that few brands are able to create an experience that fosters long-term customer relationship.
7. Own Your Mistakes
Try as you may, there is sure to come a time when you fumble the hand-off and screw something up. It happens to the best of them. Whether it’s a billing error or shipping mishap, customer service is instrumental in fully righting the wrong – at least it should be. Nothing is more insulting than having to deal with a rude customer service rep when their company is at fault in the first place. Promptly issuing a refund or replacing a defective item is standard protocol. Training support agents to accept responsibility and issue an apology for the inconvenience is icing on the cake of customer satisfaction.
The last three years of operating a consumer-facing business has taught me one important lesson: if people like you, they’ll buy and continually buy from you. Even if your prices are higher than the competition. But that admiration cannot exist if you don’t treat customers the way they deserve to be treated. Prioritize customer service and make sure you create the same ideal experiences you expect as a consumer.